It was one of those golden October days when the leaves are bursting with color and the crispness in the air strikes a perfect balance with the late-in-the-year sun. Queens resident Nirka Arias, 35, and her 17-year-old daughter Rebecca are on their way to spend the afternoon at the Ricardo Rojas Atelier just east of the autumnal spectacle that is New York City’s Central Park.
A few weeks earlier, and the last time Arias was at a hair salon, the hairdresser had to chug two beers in order to conjure up the nerve to grant his client's request: to shave her head. The mother-of-three has breast cancer and is in the midst of undergoing chemotherapy; her hair was falling out and she didn’t want to wait to watch it all go. Arias' five-year-old daughter cried the first time she saw her mom without hair; her husband cried when she told him she had cancer, then shaved his head, too. She embraces her newly buzzed hair at home and wears a short wig out in public.